Review: Carrie (2013)

Carrie is spooky enough to please fans of the Stephen King novel, but unlikely to live up to Brian De Palma's 1976 classic

With such an exemplary original to live up to, Kimberly Peirce’s remake of Carrie was under a lot of pressure from the get-go. I have a feeling that 99% of people going to see this film will go into the cinema with an image of Sissy Spacek covered in blood, her eyes bulging out of their sockets and the iconic music from the prom resounding in their heads. I tried desperately not to do this, but I’m afraid to say I did. Being a fan of the original, it’s hard not to sit through the 2013 version without comparing it to the Brian De Palma classic. But what viewers need to consider is that this is not in fact a remake, but more of an adaptation from the original Stephen King novel. De Palma’s 1976 film strayed away from the book, changing pieces here and there, yet still turning it into a successful adaptation for its time. Fast forward thirty-seven years and we’re finally presented with a more, let’s say, truthful version of King’s tale.

Chloe Moretz tries her hardest to come across as the victim, keeping her head down for the first half of the film, hiding under her pristine hair and oversized clothes. But even so, (and without causing any offence to Spacek here) Moretz just seems too pretty to be an outcast in a modern day high school. Spending most of the film researching her powers, and learning to control them, at times it felt like watching a troubled Matilda trying to make her way through high school. Of course we feel for Carrie; we’re supposed to. But the nervous edge Moretz brings to her just makes us feel equally as awkward at times. Having said this, Moretz did manage to make me feel extremely sorry for her in the build-up to prom. Watching Carrie sew her prom dress, put her make up on and have her first ever dance with a boy really pulls at your heart strings when you know what’s coming.

The biggest surprise of the movie came in the form of Carrie’s terrifyingly religious mother Margaret White, which inevitably turned out to be great casting in Julianne Moore. I didn’t expect much from Moore if I’m honest, mainly due to the fact that Piper Laurie was the only person I could imagine in this role, remembering her Oscar-nominated performance still gives me chills to this day. I was intrigued to see what Moretz would do with the character, but Moore really stepped up to the plate. Stripping Moore down from every last inch of make-up was terrifying in itself, as was her un-brushed busy hair. Trying to make it different from Laurie’s psychotic version, Moore stays equally as disturbed but changes are made to rework Margaret to the point where you almost feel sorry for her. Silently self-harming and frequently reassuring Carrie that through the abuse, she still loves her, Margaret is clearly unhinged. But there are scenes that show a powerful mother-daughter relationship, something Pierce is desperately trying to show through the tale of a tragic, and ultimately doomed young girl.

Bringing the story into the 21st century, Peirce has thrown a modern day spin on the tale, which is a good factor for those who have no concept of the story going in. The opening shower scene is filmed on the bullies’ mobile phones, uploaded to YouTube and later shown on the big television screens at prom, which is mortifying to watch. This prom scene was unescapably filled with CGI effects, but even with the original in mind, it worked. As Carrie exacts her revenge on her cruel tormentors, you can see in her eyes that she means it. Contradicting the original, Moretz’s Carrie is completely in control of her powers by this point. She knows exactly what she’s doing to each of those high school students and shows this by leaving Judy Greer’s kind-hearted PE teacher, Ms Desjardin alive, a change from De Palma’s. Although the amount of over-acting Greer was doing, I wouldn’t have minded if Carrie had done her in.

Overall, Carrie is a great attempt at bringing King’s novel, true to form, into the modern day. Although Moretz sometimes appeared to work too hard on playing the poor girl, her chemistry with Moore made up for this. Moore’s fantastic portrayal of Margaret White definitely brings in the creepy factor that oozed from the original and the supporting cast all played their parts well, from Gabriella Wilde’s overprotective Sue Snell to Portia Doubleday’s horrific Chris Hargensen. Peirce manages to stay true to King’s novel, allowing Carrie’s telekinesis to take centre stage as she rampages through the town for a true prom after-party. Moretz continues to show her versatility as a young actress, proving that she can take on any role thrown at her, even if at points a struggle seems imminent.

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